An agency hired to find ways to cut the state budget is proposing a new means of allowing cities, counties and other local governments to share services, and perhaps save some money. So-called “Freedom Communities” would be allowed to stretch across city and county lines, and levy not only property taxes, but collect income taxes as well. “Freedom Communities” would be exempt from some state regulations, too, as a way of reducing paperwork. Charles City Mayor James Erb says it’s not consolidation. Erb says if it becomes a conversation about consolidation, it won’t go very far. Erb says the purpose is to try to unfreeze things and create more discussion about what’s possible. Erb says it comes back to bigger issues about what kind of state Iowa is going to be, and whether it will grow again. Erb says if Iowa remains “inflexible” it will probably lose that battle. Cities and counties have traditionally relied on property taxes to provide services. The state gets most of its money from income taxes and sales taxes. Indianola Mayor Jerry Kelley says it’s time for a change. Kelley says it’s time for the state and local governments to “get married and stop living together” — which means taxes would be shared by all jurisdictions. Bob Rafferty, a consultant for “Public Strategies Group,” says the proposal would give more flexibility to city and county leaders. Rafferty’s group is taking the proposal “on the road” to try to start a discussion about how to create a quality of life in Iowa that ensures the “vitality” of local communities. Kelley, the Indianola Mayor, says the two-point-eight million people in Iowa would make a good Chicago suburb and it’s time to drop the labels — like urban and rural — and have Iowans join together in new forms of government in order to make progress.
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